Featuring: Todd, Winckler, King, Keech, Kula, DeJong
DV Cam: Agent Winckler
Digital Photography: Agent Kula
Graphics: Agent DeJong
On March 12, 2004, a piece of French toast half-eaten by pop star Justin Timberlake was sold on eBay for $3,154 by Radio Station Z100.
On June 19, Improv Everywhere decided to get a piece of that action. We set up a table on 44th Street just a few steps East of Times Square and held up a large sign that advertised “Celebrity Trash For Sale”. On the table, we had a delightful assortment of trash that we claimed was taken directly from the trashcans of New York celebrities.
Matthew Broderick’s Hot Sauce
Each item had a “Certificate of Authenticity” on it, which gave the celebrity’s name and the date that the trash was “rescued”. We set the prices at our whim and they were always negotiable. Trash with actual saliva remnants (and therefore DNA!) was usually priced higher. We can’t just give away Jerry Seinfeld’s toothbrush. You have to pay the big bucks. ($6).
Jerry Seinfeld’s discarded tooth brush
Mayor Bloomberg’s Goya beans
Paris Hilton’s water jug
As folks walked by (mostly tourists in the Times Square area for a Broadway matinee), we shouted at them, shilling for our trash. Most people laughed and kept walking.
Some folks stopped and took advantage of the opportunity to touch items once used by the rich and famous. (Whether or not they believed it to be the real deal.)
A man inspects Tom Brokaw’s Bud Light bottle
Agent Todd quotes a $3 price for David Letterman’s saline solution
Going through celebrity trashcans and dumpsters night after night is not an easy job, but sometimes the trash comes to you.
A large group passed our table and seemed to take particular enjoyment to our operation. A young guy from the group started to shout:
Guy: Do y’all want my trash?
Agent Todd: Are you a celebrity?
Guy’s Friend: He’s Donald Faison!!
Agent Todd: (not knowing who that is, goes along with it anyway) Sure, dude!
Donald Faison: Here you go! (takes out used napkin and places on table)
You may know Donald Faison from his work on NBC’s Scrubs or one of the many films he’s been in, including Clueless.
Agents Keech and King proudly show off Donald Faison’s napkin
Donald Faison’s used napkin ($2)
Lucky for us, Faison wasn’t the only celeb to drop by the Trash Table.
Out in Times Square selling photos to tourists (presumably promoting Spider-Man 2?), Spidey was kind enough to give us a bit of his own trash!
Spider-Man’s discarded unsold photo ($4)
Most of our day, however, was spent with everyday folks who were excited to take a look at actual celebrity trash.
It was hard to get some people to stop, even with our “Free to look; Free to touch.” policy. (Which we thought was quite generous.)
The young people above stopped by the table and enjoyed talking to us about our goods. Things got a little awkward when we tried to sell them Sarah Jessica Parker’s doorknob to the young boy in the striped shirt.
Agent Keech: We got this doorknob out of Sara Jessica Parker’s trash just last week. Since it’s a doorknob, you know she must have touched it a million times.
10 Year Old Boy: Who?
Agent Keech: Sarah Jessica Parker.
10 Year Old Boy: …You mean… the whore?
Agent Keech: Whoa.
Pretty early in the day a man came by and kind of acted like a prick.
Agent Todd: Would you like to touch anything, sir?
Man: Who was it that went through Dylan’s trash?
Agent Todd: I’m not sure.
Man: (said in a pricky way) Well, if you’re going to do this, you should really know your history.
“You should really know your history”
The man took a look at a few of our items as Agent Winckler filmed him. He had a young guy with him who appeared to be his son. He continued to scold us for not knowing the name of the person who went through Dylan’s trash (he didn’t know it either). For those of you keeping score, it was AJ Weberman, but we really don’t see how that knowledge affects our ability to vend celebrity trash in Times Square.
About 20 minutes later, the man returned, this time alone.
Man: You’re going to have to stop doing this.
Agent Todd: What?
Man: You have to stop. You can’t film people without release forms.
Agent Todd: Yes, we can.
Man: Who is this for?
Agent Todd: It’s for the three of us.
Man: No. Who are you shooting this for? What is it?
Agent Todd: It’s for our own personal use.
Man: You can’t do this without release forms.
Agent Todd: What authority are you?
Man: I’m going to have to take your camera.
“I’m going to have to take your camera.”
The man then walked over to Agent Winckler and tried to take his video camera. Yes. That’s right. He tried to take our video camera by physically grabbing for it. Agent Winckler yanked the camera above his head and yelled, “Don’t touch me!” and, “Are you a cop?” The man backed away and returned to the table.
“I’m going to have to see all three of your driver’s licenses.”
Man: Ok. I’m going to have to see all three of your driver’s licenses.
Agent Todd: Are you a police officer?
Man: That doesn’t matter. You have to tell me who you are.
Agent Todd: My name is Charlie Todd. What is yours?
Man: It’s against the law not to have release forms.
Agent Todd: Do you think every tourist with a camera in Times Square is getting release forms from everyone they film?
Man: Why don’t I go get a police officer and have him come over here?
Agent Todd: You do that.
By this point around 10 police officers had already walked by our table, smiled, laughed, and kept walking. The man went off to find a police officer and sadly never returned. In the mean time, Agent Todd made a release form in case he came back.
Release: “I allow these dudes to film me and watch it at home”
The rest of the day went without a hitch. Folks walked by and smiled. Some stopped for a chat. Some believed us and laughed. Some didn’t believe us and laughed even more.
Jerry Seinfeld’s microwave popcorn box ($5)
The economy is bad and times are tough, but we did manage to sell Sarah Jessica Parker’s doorknob to a nice fellow for $0.50. He drove a hard bargain.
To make a good day great, on our way home we ran into Spider-Man again! This time his suit looked a little different, and he was much taller, but he was still up to his photo selling tricks!
We chose a good spot for our celebrity junk table — photo and tchotchke vendors on one side and a long empty approach on the other side because of the metal police barricades that were left there.
As described above, one gentleman approached us very early on in the mission and condescendingly urged us to ‘check our history’, speaking of the guy who went through Bob Dylan’s trash. I thought he said ‘Grossman’ — turns out it was ‘Weberman’.
He departed, saying ‘good luck’. About 20 minutes later he returned, agitated, and told us that we weren’t allowed to take pictures of people. He said he would take away our camera. I had removed myself to the street to get a better angle. He broke away from arguing with Agent Todd and came towards me — he actually put his hands on me, trying to get my camera while I held it away from him over the barricade. He said, ‘You aren’t
allowed to take pictures.’ I said, ‘I think I am.’ He kept blustering. I said, ‘Are you a police officer?’ He said, ‘No, but I’m going to go get one’ and left. He did not return, to our disappointment.
My favorite photo was of this one lady walking by, making this kind of “I just can’t believe it!” face and slapping her forehead. You know that the story she brings back to all the folks in Tulsa, or Naperville, or wherever, is gonna end with “(sigh, shakes head) I tell you, ONLY in New York…”
My theory on the prick dude is that he realized 10 minutes after the fact that he behaved like a huge condescending prick to us about the Dylan guy and that we had it on tape. Fearing we would air his prickishness on television, he returned thinking he could stop us. Then he acted like even more of a prick by trying to take (steal?) our camera. Good thing we have it all on tape. What a prick!
Otherwise, it was a lovely day in the sun full of laughs and good people.